12 September 2017

Liberia: Rights Group Against Hate Messages

Liberia Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Identity, Diversity and Equality (LIPRIDE) has called on Liberians to reject acts that tend to harbor violence and eventually jeopardize the peaceful co-existence of citizens during the upcoming elections.

The coalition says it has observed unprecedented and unhealthy messages both on social and mainstream media against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity from major state actors in Liberia.

LIPRIDE said one of such unprecedented and unhealthy messages was recently instigated by the President Protempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator Armah Zolu Jallah of Gbapolu County, when he spoke during the 18th graduation ceremony of the Triumph Church Mission School at the Unity Conference center in Montserrado County.

During the ceremony, Pro-Tempore Jallah is quoted as saying there were homosexuals and Lesbians in the country who are increasing the acts of immorality exclusively for financial gains.

He further compared homosexuality to the acts of army robbery, a statement LIPIDE describes as unacceptable to the sexuality of persons.

Senator Jallah told the graduates that they are graduating at the time "when our society has fundamentally changed; homosexuals and lesbians are using the dollars to ruin the sanity of young people while armed robbers take the lives of people. Prostitution has increased even openly while both the young and the old people are indecently dressed the same way exposing their bodies. We now live in a society where money dictates the course. The morality of many has declined."

LIPRIDE pointed out that this statement by the Senate Pro-Tempore is far from his constitutional duties as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees universal recognition of basic Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

LIPRIDE said all fundamental human rights are inherent to all human beings, inalienable and equally applicable to everyone, and that everyone is born free and equal in dignity, as such their rights must be respected.

The group said instead of Senator Jallah profiling ideas how the hardship in the country can be addressed, he chose to incite violence against a particular group of people based on perception.

LIPRIDE argued that such discriminatory and hate message is not going to put food on the tables of citizens.

LIPRIDE said the Senate Pro-temp with an annual budget of nearly US$1 million should be finding holistic solution how these poverty stricken people can be helped rather than attacking sexuality.

"The constitution of Liberia provides for religious freedom without allowing the infliction of harm on other people and like Joe Kennedy and Bobby Scott argued in their Act do no harm that religious freedom or Cultural claims should never be used as a guide for unfair and unjust treatment that undercut other people's fundamental rights," LIPRIDE said.

LIPRIDE said the Senator's statement has the propensity to reinforce the culture of stigma and discrimination against people who are needed in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

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